The new get-rich-quick-scheme is this: go to work for the US government.
Or rather, go to "work" for the US government.
Or, screw it... let's not even go to work.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has just released the results of an investigation into employee fraud at the EPA. The environment, which seems to actually be in need of protecting, is being "overseen" by employees that can't even be bothered to show up for work. (via Reason Hit & Run)
[An] EPA manager [...] allowed an employee to stay at home and not report for duty for several years... [T]his EPA manager not only entered fraudulent time-and-attendance records for the absent employee but also approved the same fraudulent records. It is estimated that the manager's approval of fraudulent time-and-attendance records cost the government more than $500,000...
Telecommuting: the wave of the future! Stay at home,
do some work
, and all without changing out of your pajamas.
This senior executive, who was the absent employee's prior supervisor, remained aware that the employee had been teleworking for more than 20 years with very little substantive work product to show during this time...
Two decades of pajama-wearing non-production, and all this employee has to show for it is a half-million dollars... and a wall full of Employee of the Month awards.
Even more egregious is that this EPA manager authored and approved exemplary performance appraisals that resulted in a cash award for the absent employee.
If telecommuting seems like too much of a hassle, you could just turn the government's national security fervor against itself and do whatever it is you'd rather be doing with your time, all while collecting a paycheck, as in the case of a "Mr. Beale":
The investigation also revealed that [a] senior executive did not exercise due diligence, in part because she believed [...] that Mr. Beale worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. She never questioned Mr. Beale further, she said, because she believed the questioning might compromise national security...
This unwillingness to question issues of purported national security enabled this senior executive to authorize or approve fraudulent time-and-attendance records and travel vouchers in excess of $180,000.
Here's where the War on Terror
meets mid-level management. The government's "Insider Threat
" program has employees worried that questioning government policies, much less an EPA employee's claims that he's doing important NATSEC work, will see them quickly and forcibly ejected from the corner cubicle and deposited directly into the bowels of the nearest SuperMax.
Mr. Beale's important CIA work apparently involved collecting paychecks and cash "reimbursements" from the EPA for nearly a decade.
Our investigation indicated that the senior executive approved, or authorized the approval of, fraudulent time-and-attendance records and travel vouchers for Mr. Beale from 2000 through 2010...
Mr. Beale (prior to his indictment) racked up a tab approaching $1 million, all collected from US citizens, most of whom actually have to go to work in order to get paid.
There's likely a lot more abuse where that came from, but Deputy Assistant Inspector Allan Williams' summary doesn't detail presumably ongoing investigations. It does, however, ominously note that the above person was "not the only EPA manager who was allowing employees not to report for duty."
Mr. Beale may be headed for jail but the "telecommuter" detailed above, who put in 20 years of service without leaving his home or lifting a finger, walked away clean, as did his fraudulent partners back at the office.
Upon receiving a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the senior executive retired and was not prosecuted. Furthermore, the DOJ declined to prosecute either the absent employee or the current supervisor.
The OIG report also details the misconduct related to an employee suffering from a debilitating disease that prevents him from fulfilling his duties. At the time of the investigation, the employee was actually residing in an assisted living facility. The EPA kindly allowed him to telecommute, but like its other long-distance workers, not much actual work was being done.
[E]mployee has not been physically able to complete any work for at least the last year; however, this employee continues to draw a full salary and receive the benefits of an active employee [...] and has been allowed to remain on telework status for several years without providing any substantive work product.
And, finally, if you can be bothered to show up at work, there's nothing obligating you to perform anything more strenuous than some wrist/thumb movement.
[A] career EPA employee [...] allegedly stored pornographic materials on an EPA network server shared by colleagues [...] The OIG's investigation determined that the employee downloaded and viewed more than 7,000 pornographic files during duty hours...
And it's not just what the OIG discovered when it peeked into the server. It's what the employee was actually doing when the OIG stopped by.
When an OIG special agent arrived at this employee's work space to conduct an interview, the special agent witnessed the employee actively viewing pornography on his government-issued computer.
The employee subsequently admitted to spending two to six hours a day
viewing and downloading porn. This would seem excessive on a home
computer, much less on your employer's
computer. This too has been passed along to the DOJ for potential prosecution, but if an employee can spend 20 years not working
for the US government and walk away with nearly a million dollars' worth of compensation without being prosecuted, I would imagine this porn aficionado will be served with little more than a minor slap on his well-used wrist.
The OIG continues to provide the valuable service of showing taxpayers just how badly their money is being abused. Unfortunately, it can't do much more than investigate. It's up to the agencies to fix their problems and many of those investigated seem completely unwilling to do any more than is absolutely unavoidable. The DOJ's scattershot approach to punishing wrongdoers indicates there's at least a 50/50 chance that years of fraud and misconduct will result in nothing harsher than an opportunity to exit gracefully -- and without being named.